Zoe Amar: Four myths about digital transformation

The consultant outlines the main misconceptions people have about digital at charities

Zoe Amar
Zoe Amar

I’ve recently been working on The Charity Digital Toolkit, put together to help charities develop their skills and raise awareness of the fact that digital now spans many areas of charities’ work, from fundraising and strategy to data and governance.

Working on the toolkit made me think of all the misconceptions people have about digital, and how we should adopt the new ways of doing business and developing relationships with audiences. My team and I work closely with charities every day to help them progress with digital. We repeatedly come up against a number of myths about digital transformation and what it involves. Here are some of the common ones we encounter.

Digital transformation is all about digital

Well, no. Digital first is a popular term, but really it should be people first, technology second. How can you use digital to help your charity generate more income, deliver better services and build a stronger community of supporters? The toolkit features a case study about a brilliant digital service run by Diabetes UK, which is notable not just for its innovative approach, but also for how closely and sensitively it worked with beneficiaries every step of the way. It used digital to reshape its organisation so it could fulfil its vision and mission more effectively. Here’s how I define digital transformation: "Integrating digital across our organisation to deliver our vision, create value, give our audience great experience and services and develop our competitive advantage."

It happens overnight

In fact, very few organisations experience instant success. For example, Marie Curie is well known for its digital transformation and its chapter in the toolkit on digital fundraising reveals the huge amount of thinking, planning, testing, learning and improving that goes into doing digital well.

You can do it without your board

Yes, you can move some aspects of digital forward without trustees being involved, but you might struggle to reap all the benefits. Sarah Atkinson, director of policy and communications at the Charity Commission, points out in the toolkit that trustees need to see digital as enabling better governance, helping boards to communicate more effectively and have better oversight, such as data about how beneficiaries are using your online services in real time.

You should prioritise investment in tools

Ensuring your people have digital skills should be just as much of a priority as a new website or whizzy customer relationship management system. In the toolkit Jo Wolfe, digital lead at Breast Cancer Care, shares her insights into the huge amount of work that goes into helping colleagues become confident with digital.

How else can your charity maximise the opportunities that digital offers? If I had to invest in the one area that was most likely to guarantee success in digital transformation it would be skills.

Digital transformation is really business transformation, enabled by digital. As charities, your impact is under scrutiny, and sustainability is getting harder as funding cuts continue. Digital should be viewed as a way to transform not only charities, but also the overall fortunes of the sector.

Zoe Amar is the founder of the digital and marketing consultancy Zoe Amar Communications

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